A YOUNG man who nursed an injured greyhound to racing success has opened his own training facility.
In 2005, schoolboys Tom and Paul Heilbron were told their beloved greyhound Dash would never race again after he tore his tricep muscles.
The brothers nursed him back to health and Dash, now nine, went on to rewrite the record books, winning five re-graded handicap races in a row – a record that still stands today.
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The boys – then 15 and 12 – were presented with the Greyhound Trainer of the Year award at the Northern Echo Local Heroes awards in 2006, with Dash appearing on stage resplendent in a custom-made Local Heroes coat.
Eight years later, the dog once dubbed the North-East’s favourite greyhound is enjoying a luxurious retirement at the feet of his mistress, the boys’ mother Tina, in Heighington, near Darlington.
In Dash’s glory days, young Tom spoke often of his dream to become a greyhound trainer. Now, inspired by his old friend, the 22-year-old has opened Link Kennels in County Durham.
The facility – named in tribute to Dash’s racing moniker Another Link – offers training and care to a number of greyhounds.
Mr Heilbron said: “Dash is living a life of luxury and he has helped me a lot over the years. I would never have got into this without him.
“I’ve done a lot of things, I worked off-shore and as a quantity surveyor but it was all based around the idea of being a full-time greyhound trainer.
“Dash has inspired my career and been a big influence. He went through a lot after being injured and I’ve never seen anything like it since.
“He smashed his legs and we thought he would never walk again but we nursed him back to health and he set records that still stand today.”
He added: “Dash might be retired and he’s an old, grey man now but he’d still race if you let him.
“He’s more of a couch potato these days and his glory days are behind him but we still might try and get pups from him to keep his genes going.”